From its headquarters in Florida, Island Packet Yachts produces strong, comfortable sailboats with layouts for extensive blue-water cruising. The Island Packet 320 incorporates the features one has come to expect from this well-known builder, including a hefty bowsprit, broad transom, springy sheerline, cutter rig, and, of course, a creamy tan finish on both the hull and deck. The IP 320 topped a strong field to win Best Midsize Cruiser honors in our 1998 Boat Of The Year contest.

Construction: With regard to layup, materials, and execution, this company's motto might well be "Might Is Right." The solid fiberglass hull - supported by an interior grid structure - is hand-laid of triaxial mat impregnated with pressure-fed resin and sealed with the company's exclusive Poly-Clad gelcoat system. The boat has a 10-year limited warranty against osmotic blisters. The deck is sandwiched with a PolyCore foam laminate, while the rugged keel-hung rudder is laminated over a high-density structural-grade urethane foam on a 2-inch solid stainless-steel rudderpost. The "full-foil" cutaway keel is ballasted with a combination of iron and lead ingots in a mortar base. For serious cruising consider the optional rubrail with the stainless-steel strip. As a backup to your fenders, these rails are invaluable for protecting the boat when docking against pilings or passing through locks.

Accommodations: Although the 320's LOA is just a hair over 32 feet, designer Bob Johnson has used the wide beam (almost 12 feet) to create a two-stateroom, one-head layout that feels like it belongs on a bigger boat. There is a U-shaped galley to starboard of the companionway, the head is forward and to port, and there is good storage throughout. The primary berths- an offset double in the forward cabin and an athwhartships double aft- are unusual in their placement (how many 32-footers do you see without a V-berth?) but effective. In the main saloon the starboard settee pulls out to make yet a third double bunk.

Rig & Deck Layout: For cruising sailors the Island Packet's sail plan and standing rigging arrangement are excellent. The cutter rig with the large jib (or yankee) tacked forward off the bowsprit and the small staysail set inboard on the foredeck is very functional. The object is not necessarily to use both sails at once but to have each available instantly to match changing conditions. By using a fairly robust mast extrusion and setting the aft lower shrouds well aft, the need for runners is eliminated. The value of the jib boom on the staysail, however, is open to discussion. On a positive note, it allows for a self-tacking headsail.

On the down side, in rough weather it may swing unchecked and present a hazard to anyone working forward. It also prevents stowing a dinghy on the foredeck.

Systems & Tankage: The 320 does a lot of little things very well. Access to the emergency tiller is excellent. Under power the sound insulation for the engine compartment makes for a quiet ride. The hoses in the plumbing system are top quality. All valves are well organized and clearly labeled. Thanks to the boat's generous freeboard and deep bilges, the fuel and water tanks are positioned below the cabin sole, freeing up the space under berths for extra stowage. But the tanks are fitted before the installation of the floor pan; gaining access may be a big job should the tanks need to be removed years hence.

Under Sail: We sailed the 320 on a beautiful Chesapeake day and found her performance, especially when reaching, to be very good. Quantifying usable cruising speed is not an exact science. It's determined first by waterline length, then by factors such as displacement, sail area, wetted surface, propeller type, rudder, keel draft and configuration, and, of course, the crew's sailing style. With a 27-foot waterline, hull speed for the 320 is estimated at about 7 knots. Under power, and when reaching or running, most cruising boats with adequate sail area (which the 320 has) will come up to hull speed quite easily. Upwind velocity made good (VMG) is another matter. Here, racing boats with deep fin keels and lower freeboard will fare much better. The Island Packet team has emphasized desirable cruising features such as the long, shallow keel (which is very strong, protects the rudder and propeller, and has a large bilge sump) over upwind VMG. For pure cruising it's a smart choice.

The Verdict: The Island Packet 320 follows a tried-and-true formula, the success of which is demonstrated regularly by her siblings making regular calls in far-flung anchorages. If not the fastest 32-footer on the market, she is more than capable of respectable 24-hour offshore runs. More importantly for her owners, she has the wherewithal to cover miles smartly and safely.

FULL BROCHURE | REVIEW (SAILING MAGAZINE)

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This review/article originally appeared in Cruising World Magazine, August 1998 and is written by Bill Lee. For more great sailboat reviews, visit their website at: www.cruisingworld.com

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